Costa de la Luz – tribute to the sun

Travel

Last week the summer officially started, bringing long, intense days, scorching sun, smell of the sea and the appetite to discover new places around. As soon as the travel between the provinces had been allowed, I set myself to my revisit my beloved Ocean, the part of Andalucia called Costa de la Luz. After last year’s visit to Tarifa, I always wanted to return there as much as I could. 

Leaving at the sunrise, the roads were still pretty empty and it was such a pleasure driving slowly around the steep mountains nearby Marbella, changing naturally into the landscape of vast fields, Atlantic forest and dunes as soon as you leave towards the Cadiz province. From time to time I could see the birds of prey or even vultures hovering in the sky just above the car.

Passing by the white towns of Vejer and Barca, I chose my first destination: Conil de la Frontera. At the end of May there was still only a handful of people visiting and it allowed me to enjoy the vast Ocean beaches almost alone, something hard to imagine during the high season. I took my Mom with me as she loves this type of places and it was a great reunion for us to spend a few days together in such a scenery. Conil is one of the most picturesque ‘white towns’, founded by the Phoenicians, famous for the Spanish Reconquista and for its almadraba fishing method. 

The appreciation for the local cuisine led me to check the menu of various taverns, who compete for the most creative tuna dishes. My absolute favourite in Conil would go to Taberna Chanca, full of creative yet simple tapas. I rarely repeat places when travelling, but I enjoyed it so much, I returned there after 2 weeks, this time with my partner. I only hope that the traditional method has the appreciation for this magnificent species. Even the local Virgen del Carmen is blessing the fishermen and the tuna itself.

From the natural paradise lens, another place that completely blew my mind was the endless lagoon on Playa de Castilobo with an ancient Moorish tower, currently inhabited by Hermit Ibises, re-introduced by the group of local ornithologists. Its colonies once existed all over Europe, North Africa and Middle East, and currently it is considered one of the most endangered species on our planet. There, you can hear and watch a few couples, producing synthetic, squeaky sounds and breeding happily – it is a treat for bird watcher’s eye. 

On the way between Conil, Palmar and Barbate there is also a lot of hiking trails around the Natural Park of Brena and Marismas, leading through steep ocean cliffs and forests. I met no one there, except from a few rabbits and a hoopoe! If the visibility is good, it is quite easy to observe the other side of the Gibraltar Strait, and Atlas Mountains in Morocco. 

During my second trip, I stayed at the laid-back town of Zahara de los Atunes, where again I spent a lot of active time on the beach, hiking and enjoying the local 0 km cuisine. A special mention goes to the Taberna del Campero for a lovely treat, heart-warming patio where not only humans, but also doves have their special place. The waiters were quite mindful of the pair of doves, nesting on the patio, disregarding the comment of some customers about the presence of the birds. They simply said “Yes, there are doves here. They live here with us. And they have little chicks now, that’s why we put them a special nesting cardboard to help them out”. 

The importance of being respectful, not only to the local towns visiting, but also the animals living there, like the mentioned tuna, gekkoes, spoonbills, storks and herons one can notice when spending time next to the lagoons and beaches. The South of Spain has an incredible offer for the nature lovers and slow travellers – we cannot destroy it with the new wave of massification of the tourism. And here comes my tribute to the sun, sand and sea. 

Senda Litoral to Marbella – on four wheels

Personal, Travel

The title of this month’s post is only slightly misleading. It has been a long, intense and beautiful month for me and I can’t pin point a single cause of that fact, so I have to choose one. And it is the general kinetic pleasure of being able to travel, on four wheels, further than usual, as the movement restrictions and over six months of Estado de Alarma have been lifted. 

On FOUR wheels though? What happened to the Peugeot urban bike who was a protagonist of most of my recent posts? Here comes the pun! Two bikes equal four wheels (let’s not forget about the brave Kross who came with us all the way from Berlin, and earlier, from Poland!), true. But the fact is, the bikes share a parking lot with a car now! And the best part of it is, that in order to buy the car, we went over 50 kms using our own bikes, to the big surprise of the seller. Who started to doubt if we really need a car, even prior to see us driving it. 

Let me tell you about the way first. Since I moved to Costa del Sol, I started fantasizing of a long bike ride towards the Cadiz coast and learned, that currently, the path leads almost to Estepona, with some degree of creativity. Since I am not a big fan of using the major roads crowded with cars, I try to look for an alternative. It is not as easy in Malaga though as it is in more plain provinces. On one hand, you are limited by the rocks at the sea, and on the other by the steep mountains. So the choice of roads to use is fairly limited. There is a way to reach Marbella/Estepona currently, using the beautiful Senda Litoral via Mijas Costa, but only during weekdays and particular timeframes, not clashing with the pedestrians (9-11 am or 2-4 pm). So here comes the right amount of creativity and planning into the mix. 

While the town of Cala de Mijas looks like the most of the other Costa del Sol beach towns, the magic starts after passing by the next town, Sitio de Calahonda. There is where the Natural Park of Dunas de Artola brings peaceful landscapes of vegetation, sandy beaches and if you are lucky, you can recognize colourful flowers and birds on the way. We were very lucky to hear, and then spot about three hoopoes on that particular ride! Although some of the legends claim that to hear the hoopoe’s call brings sudden death, I prefer to attribute it to the springtime nuptial ceremonies among this species. Especially when I am learning to drive once again. Apparently, the females choose the most attractive male by the quantity, frequency and profoundness of their calls. To learn more about the hoopoe, I truly recommend the movie ‘Return of the Hoopoe‘!

But it is not all about the hoopoe. The vegetation and the wildlife observed by this beautiful path is endless, especially during springtime. The path offers whale and dolphin spotting outposts, especially around Fuengirola’s nudist beaches, making the others doubt if you really do whale or birdwarching (facepalm). This least pleasant part of the ride goes close to the motorway, so escaping the ongoing sound of the roaring engines by looking at the big blue is one of the best strategies to enjoy this 8 km ride. However, I recently learned that the local authorities plan to build a proper path, further down the rocky coast and not so close to the motorway. Judging by the amount of the runners, bikers and pedestrians it is a great idea.

The reality though, at least for now, is that we can’t go wherever we want to by our beloved four bike wheels. Hence, the decision to buy a car came just before turning 2 years living in Malaga, which is by the way, exactly today. Since we have not driven a car for many years, we are quite nervous behind the wheel but still love beautiful design and can’t agree to use a SUV, we decided for a fun, second hand car with a good condition and low mileage. So far we are still learning, yet the freedom to choose to go to the ocean or wherever we point the finger on the map, is priceless. 

Since then, almost three weeks passed and the car is not in use unless we go to practice or if we need to go somewhere further. I still recommend using collective transportation, bike or own feet to discover Andalucia, when possible, thinking about our own health, and the condition of our planet. 

Walking or driving slower, does not take the magic of the discovery, quite the opposite. Thanks to these long walks, lurking into and mindful registering of the nature, I was able to spot this gourmand sparrow, enjoying jamón ibérico, among other magical happenings that we miss by, if we live too fast.